Both, just like some of their peers from Bollywood, endorse pan masala brands. A look at why this is a problem for The Advertising Standards Council of India.
Thanks to The Advertising Standards Council of India and pan masala, Bollywood actors Shah Rukh Khan, Sunny Leone, Ajay Devgn, Govinda, Saif Ali Khan and Arbaaz Khan find themselves in the same boat. They all endorse pan masala brands across mass media channels.
The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), a self-regulatory body that propagates responsible advertising, has announced in its official communique, that it will look into pan masala advertisements featuring celebrities as they have been found to be in violation of ASCI's code of self-regulation in advertising content.
Bollywood actors Shah Rukh Khan, Sunny Leone, Ajay Devgn, Saif Ali Khan, Arbaaz Khan and Govinda have been issued letters by the health department of the Delhi Government requesting them to stop endorsing pan masala brands.
Devgn endorses Vimal Pan Masala, Shah Rukh Khan appears in ads for Pan Vilas Pan Masala, and Leone, Saif Ali Khan and Govinda endorse Mehak Kesar Shilajit pan masala, Pan Bahar Pan Masala and Pan-e-Shahi Pan Masala, respectively. Arbaaz Khan is the brand ambassador for Paras Pan Masala.
Pan masala may not be considered harmful by itself, the areca nuts which are carcinogenic (cancer-causing) in nature and can be likened to caffeine, tobacco and alcohol for their addictive properties, render it harmful in the long run.
Taking cognisance of the serious health implications of pan masala, the Health Department of the Delhi Government has recently appealed to celebrities not to appear in ads for such products.
The letter requests all the above-mentioned celebrities to withdraw themselves from the endorsement of any pan masala brands since actors are often role models for youngsters, especially minors under the age of 18, who are easily influenced.
The letter has also asked the actors to support the government's anti-tobacco campaign, and help prevent oral cancer.
Commenting on the announcement, Shweta Purandare, secretary general, ASCI, says, "At this juncture, we would like to educate the consumers and the advertisers that while products like pan masala and supari are not banned for sale or from advertising by law, the ASCI code does not permit the use of celebrities in advertisements of products which by law require health warning on their packaging or those that cannot be purchased or used by minors."
According to Purandare, complaints against such advertisements have been received by ASCI and are being looked into. "ASCI will approach the concerned advertisers to take necessary corrective action post the decision taken in this regard by our Consumer Complaints Council," she says.
As per the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India(FSSAI) rules, statutory warnings like 'Chewing of pan masala is injurious to health' and 'Chewing of supari is injurious to health' are mandatory to be printed on the product packaging, as well as on advertisements.
It has been observed that a large number of pan masala brands are in potential contravention of the advertising codes under ASCI's Chapter III which lays down the following directives: To safeguard against the indiscriminate use of advertising in situations or of the promotion of products which are regarded as hazardous or harmful to society or to individuals, particularly minors, to a degree or of a type which is unacceptable to society at large.
Clause 2 (e) under Chapter III states: Advertisements should not feature personalities from the field of sports, music and cinema for products which, by law, either require a health warning in their advertising or cannot be purchased by minors.
Established in 1985, the Advertising Standards Council of India(ASCI), is a self-regulatory organisation for the advertising industry whose role and functioning along with the Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) lies in dealing with complaints received from consumers and industry, against advertisements which are considered as false, misleading, indecent and illegal, leading to unsafe practices, or are unfair to competition, and consequently in contravention of the ASCI code for self-regulation in advertising.